Victor Obinna’s move to Cape Town City has the potential to pump new life into a dying career with the player seemingly a perfect fit for the attacking style of football employed by coach Benni McCarthy.
Nigerian international Obinna has seen his star dim over a number of seasons as the former Super Eagles stalwart has been sidelined for the last four years.
Given his age and profile it would be a stretch to suggest he could regain his place in the national team, but a good season with the Citizens will raise his profile again after he had been something of a ‘forgotten man’.
There are a number of reasons why City is the perfect place for Obinna at this point in his career.
He had hoped to remain in Europe, where he last played for relegated Bundesliga side SV Darmstadt 98 last season, though he only made one start and two substitute appearances in the campaign.
It was the latest stop in a run of four clubs in three seasons, having also turned out for Lokomotiv Moscow, Chievo on loan and MSV Duisburg, all a far cry from his heyday, when he was once on the wanted list of Brazilian side Internacional, and later played for Inter Milan and West Ham United.
The first plus for him is that City are a side that should play perfectly to his strengths – fast counter-attacking football, and with a midfield filled with creative players to unlock defences and provide support for his runs.
They are a team that covets wide play and encourage full-backs to join the attack in support of the forwards.
It is generally a positive brand of football that suits the style of the Nigerian.
The second plus is the home surface at the Cape Town Stadium, which is on a par with what Obinna is used to in Europe.
It is the best playing surface in the country, promoted passing football and is wide enough to provide encouragement for wingers.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, is the presence of McCarthy, not just a coach but also a long-time friend of the Nigerian who played with him at West Ham.
When McCarthy joined City at the start of the season, he made mention that one of the reasons he did so as a rookie coach was that he knew he would get assistance and understanding from club owner John Comitis.
Comitis was owner at Cape Town Spurs when McCarthy made his playing debut in the late 1990s, and there was a relationship of trust and respect there.
Obinna will get the same from McCarthy – not special treatment, but the time to regain his full fitness and form in a less pressurised environment.
That is important for a player who has made just a handful of appearances in over a year.
Don’t get me wrong, McCarthy looks a hard task-master and he will demand full effort from Obinna, but the fact they have a past relationship means there can also be some open dialogue if necessary.
However, it is also clear that when McCarthy talks about his efforts to bring Obinna to City, that he values the input of the Nigerian highly.
“He is a really good friend of mine, I know Victor from his days with the Nigerian national team when he used to be a striker partner to Obafemi Martins back then and obviously, when an African player signs for a team like Inter Milan, everybody knows about it and it was around about the time I was in England,” McCarthy told reporters, as reported by Kick Off.
“So yeah, it is big news for African players when you get such an opportunity, but then I came across him at West Ham, that’s where we played together.
“He was a bit young and I almost sort of took him under my wing because I was on my way out and he was in so, we just became friends and always kept in touch all these years and obviously I learnt that he was free and he doesn’t have a club.
“Of course, when you are in Europe why would you want to come to South Africa so I had to pursue him a little just to get himself back into football again. To my shock and surprise, he said – ‘why not, what do I have to lose?'”